In what counters the general assumption behind reasons of smoking, a new study has claimed that overweight and obese teens smoke cigarettes to lose weight.
Generally it is believed that the primary reason behind smoking is nicotine addiction, but the study published in journal Health Economics, suggests that smoking to lose weight is significantly more common among teens who feel they must slim down. Researchers found that 46 per cent of girls and 30 per cent of boys smoke in part to control their weight among US teens who are frequent smokers.
For the study researchers analysed data from the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children survey from 2001-01 and 2005-06 of nearly 10,500 US school children who were 11, 13 or 15 years old. The children reported their heights and weights, which the researchers used to calculate their body mass indexes. The youth also reported their perception of their weight.
When asked ‘Do you think your body is … ,’ they responded with either ‘much too thin’, ‘a bit too thin’, ‘about right’, ‘a bit too fat’ or ‘much too fat’. The survey also asked the children whether they had done anything to lose weight, what that action was and whether they smoked and how frequently.
Findings indicated that girls who said they were ‘much too fat’ were nearly 225 per cent more likely to smoke to lose weight than girls who said their weight was about right. In case of boys, being overweight was less of a predictor for smoking, perhaps because they feel less pressure from society to lose weight than girls do. Even so, boys who said they were ‘much too fat’ were nearly 145 per cent more likely to smoke for weight loss than boys who said their weight was about right.
Researchers say that these findings are important for they enable us to better understand why people choose to engage in risky health behaviours and it is not always the case of pleasure and enjoyment. Sometimes it is for other reasons as well.
Teen smoking is a particularly worrisome public health concern, because people who start smoking by their early 20s are likely to continue in adulthood.